Wednesday, November 30, 2016

There Is a Season

...and a time to every purpose under heaven. -Ecclesiastes 3:1b

It seems as if we have proceeded from summer directly into winter here in NW TN.

 I exaggerate (slightly?) but the turning of the leaves has been the extent of our autumnal experience in absence of the gradual decline in temperatures that is generally the norm around here.

As you see, the regularity of seasonal change is part of the pattern of our lives and so we take notice when there are perceived irregularities.

Have you noticed that there is a similar rhythm in the flow of our lives?  This is noted by the Preacher in the opening chapters of Ecclesiastes.

In case you're wondering, the beginnings of these musings are as simple as pictures on a wall. Six of them, in fact.

The first is of Joyce, Sandy and me in 19th Century regalia, a riverboat gambler and his family.

Below it is a portrait of Joyce and me, done by Sandy. We are older now, all in black against a blue background.

Below this, arrayed on either side, are four photos of each of our parents. Dads are in the uniform of the U.S. Navy and moms are depicted in their teens. All of them would have been roughly eighteen years of age.

Amazing, isn't it, to think of our parents as teenagers.

Which leads to meditations on the march of time and the nature of things (back to those seasons, hmm?)

I was blessed to be in the home of two dear friends this past Thanksgiving Day. Of all the blessings of the day, the blessing of family was most apparent. Children of children, and their children, filled the spacious home.

It is much the same at GPC. We are a young congregation (excluding myself and a couple of others). Children (and babies!) are everywhere!

It is a season for growing and learning in their lives. And the interaction between young and old is a joy to behold and be part of.

For the young parents, it is a season for creating memories, strengthening bonds of love and sacrificing that these babes might grow in wisdom and knowledge of the Lord.

I will admit I have wondered, watching all this over the past few months, whether God might bring someone special into my life.

And as I sit in Sunday School sharing His Word with three bright young minds, as I sit, on Sunday evenings, in a nursery crackling with youthful energy, it occurs to me:

He already has.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Heard It In a Love Song

...can't be wrong. -Toy Caldwell

I suppose it might seem odd to find the Song of Songs included in Old Testament wisdom literature.

This song, composed they say by Solomon for the dusky maid of verse five in the opening chapter.

And taken simply as that, a love song, its beauty thrills the heart.

Who wouldn't love and be loved like this?

Our professor of Old Testament at Ouachita Baptist College may have been correct in stating that we were too young for him to teach from this portion of scripture.

The young lovers in "Romeo and Juliet" were willing to die for their love.

But as we see here, we must be willing to live for our love.

To endure.

The Reformation Study Bible notes that we find three qualities of love between a man and a woman revealed here: self-giving, desire and commitment.

What a thing it is to have experienced such a love.

Who can live these qualities to perfection?

There is One who can and does perfectly love.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Serious As a Heart Attack

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. -Hebrews 11:1

In one of our songs, there is a line that goes: "In the blink of an eye, a new life began; in the blink of an eye, you're free from all the pain."

My friend Camille posted a blog entitled "What Should I Fear."

There is an implied implication here (I believe) to consider the question personally.

On June 14, 2014, I began to suffer a heart attack.  It began as a weak, slightly sick feeling while I was doing yardwork at GPC.

I drove home, crawled into my recliner and took an Alka-Seltzer for what must have been the worst case of indigestion ever.

The nausea and pressure abated somewhat but returned in a few moments.

I've had worse (broken bones trump all that indigestion stuff), but I still wondered what I might do to obtain relief.

The minutes ticked by and the pain seemed to ebb and flow, but also to center more on a oppressive weight on the chest.

It was when a sharp pain up and down my left arm commenced that I became truly concerned (okay, okay, you can call it fear!)

My first thought, as I recall it, was: "So this is what it's like to die."

We Christians have this quaint habit of seeing God's hand in everything because, well, His hand is in everything. And I began to pray.

"To live is Christ, to die is gain," said Paul and his words rang in my ears and calmed my spirit.

The fear didn't kick in until I thought of my wife and daughter.

"Oh God," I began to pray, "if this is your will for me, then be it so; but O Lord, for the sake of my wife and my daughter, would you spare my life for a while longer?"

And the pain stopped immediately and I did laps around the house.


I went to the ER, was loaded aboard an ambulance and taken to Paducah where the excellent doctor in the hospital there placed two stents and sent me home in a couple of days.

And so God spared my life for a while longer. Some of His purpose in this have been apparent, some has yet to be revealed.

I recently heard a pastor say that when we come to worship, it doesn't begin when the pianist starts to play and congregation becomes still, but we are only joining worship that is already in progress and the spiritual world becomes part of our material world.

The real reality of heaven has become ever more real and present in my thoughts when my wife passed over and when I reflect on the praise and worship she is most surely engaged in.

And I think, "So this is what it will be like to die."

And I ask, with my friend Camille: "What should I fear?" 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Happy Birthday

                  Joyce Wanda Tolar
                  b. October 3, 1960

Do they celebrate birthdays in heaven?

Surviving another 365 days upon this wicked earth truly is cause for congratulation and celebration .

So that when I pass this milestone each year or you awake on your natal day, we exchange greetings, well-wishes and hopes for "many more."

We even gladly endure the birthday spankings (if you are so inclined), though where this perverse custom originated I cannot say.

I will venture a guess that the "one to grow on" symbolizes the pain that accompanies growth.

But what about heaven? Is it useful to count the years in a place where "time shall be no more?"

It is useful, though, isn't it, for we who remain to recall and celebrate the lives of those whose lives have so touched ours. Fond memories, tears and laughter flood our hearts as we celebrate the blessing of having loved and been loved by these dear ones.

Happy Birthday!

...all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139:16b

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Barking Dogs

If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, "Curse David," who then shall say, "Why have you done so?" -2 Samuel 16:10b

I think I have learned a lesson today. A young dog has taught this old dog a new trick, you might say.

As I began my walk this morning, a dog began to bark aggressively. And though he was confined in the neighbor's back yard, I took offense.

Actually, I must admit, to my shame, that I began to formulate a prayer for the smiting of this poor dumb creature.

And God (in his mercy), instead of smiting me, instead reminded me that in His creation nothing happens unless He wills it.

The story of David and Shimei occurred to me as did the question, "If God has told the dog, 'Bark at RB,' how can I say, "Why are you barking?' "

Cause enough to repent (of pride for one thing), but what of our fellow human beings? What of those whose whining, complaining or general negativity wear on our nerves so badly?

I don't believe I have ever called upon God to strike down upon them with His furious vengeance, and then they will know that He is the LORD!

Well ,maybe certain politicians (a couple of imprecatory Psalms and Acts 1:20), but I have since repented of these attitudes.

Back to the question. What to do with such people?

This is Spurgeon's take on the subject:

I believe David offers the best response for the Christian. And that is to remember that God has ordained that this dog bark.

Which leads the ultimate question, the one that must be at the heart of all our seeking: "How is God glorified in this?"

Then I may ask, "What good does He intend for me in this?"

Sound advice. I'll try hard to take it.

Friday, July 22, 2016

How Was Your Day?

...and bring me my big piece of chicken!!!-Chris Rock

Are you easily offended? Then Chris Rock is probably not for you. His routines are laced with profanities and sexual references. And lots of uncomfortable truths.

This morning I was reminded of his "Bring the Pain" HBO special back in the 90's (amazing, isn't it, the things which trigger memories?).

Speaking of relationships (which he always got around to doing), he gave two important pieces of advice to guys. First was the importance of hammering on your kids to "tell your mama!" Moms need to be appreciated and kids as well as dads need to express that appreciation constantly, cause Mom's work is constant and ongoing. So tell her, kids, how much you recognize and appreciate the countless small (and not so small) things that make your life good.

Men, says Chris, don't forget to ask this question: "How was your day?" And then listen to the answer. You may reply briefly at the end ("I tole you dat bitch crazy!" if she works outside the home), but remember that you are not being called on to fix anything (unless you are specifically called on to fix something) but to express genuine empathy and understanding.

If you are easily offended then perhaps you should skip the rest of this.

One of the signs of being easily offended is to take offense when an inquiry is made about the events of your day.

This reaction for example: "Yeah, right, like you really care!"

If you believe this, what are you doing WITH this man?

Guys have days too, Chris pointed out. Like maybe your guy works for a real scheisskopf of a boss at a job he really hates. So you can have lights, gas and water.

Our needs at the end of a long day, he continued, are simpler: to sit quietly and briefly to unwind, and that BIG piece of chicken.

Me? I think God made husbands and wives to be a comfort and joy one another. To share simple pleasures. To laugh at life's craziness or our own foolishness.

As if life's hardest lesson might be to not take oneself too seriously, and to love one another as we have been loved.

And to remember; we are only "unworthy servants," having merely done our duty.

And how was YOUR day?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Your Island of Fun in a Sea of Negativity

He coulda had fun sometime.-Karl Childers

I have heard it said that sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.

Not that there's anything wrong with crying. The Bible tells us that there's a time to weep.

And, hey, even self-inflicted wounds hurt!

Nonetheless, I have come to the conclusion (don't stop me if you've heard this, just nod and laugh) that all the world is divided into two parts: the first where life is lived as a soap opera, and the place where life is approached like a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Where I spend my days depends largely on how seriously I take me.

One of my favorite quotes is in the margin of this blog: "I am just a man, like any other."

In our Sunday morning Sunday School discussion this past Sunday, the word "entitlement" was used. It is the sickness of our age, I believe, and its most visible symptom is any thought or sentence that begins with "I deserve."

Well we all know what we REALLY deserve, right? I've also heard it said that if God never did a single thing for us besides saving our souls, we should rejoice.

I agree. But I know that he pours out such daily blessings that we can't count them. There's this, for example:

So how is God glorified in my trouble, my trials, my pain?

I find myself asking that a lot. It can be quite obvious sometimes. Other times it's one of those questions you add to the list of things you'll ask Him when you see Him face-to-face.

If you're not scared speechless at His holiness, that is (Isaiah's reaction).

Or maybe simply overcome with joyous laughter.